Restaurants added 16,900 jobs in May

The industry has added 300,000 jobs over the past year, but a slowdown in overall job growth has spurred fears of a slowing economy.
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The restaurant industry added 16,900 jobs in May, a modest slowdown from previous months’ breakneck pace as overall hiring appeared to take a breather.

But the restaurant industry has added more than 300,000 positions over the past year, continuing a strong overall rate of hiring, according to federal jobs data released on Friday. Nearly 12.2 million Americans now work in a restaurant.

Overall, the economy added 75,000 jobs in May, which was also a considerable slowdown from previous months and was far lower than the 175,000 jobs that economists expected during the month.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That remains a historic low.

The slowdown in jobs growth is likely to further fears of an economic slowdown, especially amid trade wars with China and Mexico. Stocks rose Friday amid speculation that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates.

Recession concerns have had an impact on restaurant stocks. Stock in McDonald’s Corp., often seen as somewhat recession proof, hit another record high this week.

Wages continued to rise, a positive sign for the economy and for a restaurant industry that needs people who are working and earning a healthy living to generate sales. Average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1% over the past year to $27.83 an hour.

Earnings continue to grow at a higher-than-average rate for nonsupervisory employees, particularly in a restaurant industry facing competition for workers and paying higher minimum wages.

Average hourly earnings for nonsupervisory workers in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is dominated by restaurants, are up 4.7% over the past 12 months, according to federal data.

Aggressive hiring in recent years amid overall industry expansion has intensified competition for labor in the restaurant industry, driving up wages.

The strong economy hasn’t resulted in growing industry traffic but appears to be shifting some sales to higher-end restaurants such as steak concepts while fueling demand for third-party delivery.

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